Judge orders FBI to release 'manifesto' of transgender Nashville school shooter

The agency has repeatedly refused to disclose document, citing potential interference with enforcement proceedings

Judge orders FBI to release 'manifesto' of transgender Nashville school shooter
AP Photo/John Amis, File
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A federal judge in Tennessee has ordered the FBI to hand over the "manifesto" left behind by Audrey Elizabeth Hale, the transgender shooter who killed six people, including three children, at the Covenant Christian School in Nashville last year before being fatally shot by responding officers.

Hale, who police said identified as a trans male and went by Aiden, shot her way into the school in March 2023, killing adults Mike Hill, 61, Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and three 9-year-old students, Hallie Scruggs, Evelyn Dieckhaus, and William Kinney.

Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake told reporters that officers recovered a "manifesto" from Hale's car, along with other documents such as a hand-drawn map of the school. Despite promising to release the manifesto last year, authorities have not done so, Fox News reported.

The FBI has repeatedly refused to disclose the document, arguing that doing so "could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings." This stance prompted the parent company of the Tennessee Star, a local newspaper, to sue the bureau after it denied a public records request under the Freedom of Information Act.

"It has been long enough, and the public has an urgent right to know why this tragedy happened, how future events may be prevented, and what policies should be in place to address this and other similar tragedies," lawyers for the newspaper wrote in a federal complaint. "[The] FBI has no right to retain a monopoly on this information."

Judge Aleta Trauger of the Middle District of Tennessee rejected the FBI's attempt to dismiss the complaint, stating that the bureau had failed to support its position "with sufficient clarity or detail." She ordered the FBI to submit the manifesto to the court for review, with the exception of documents that "could not reasonably be construed to bear on Audrey Hale's motives."

In November, portions of what appeared to be crime scene photographs of a couple of pages leaked, but authorities refused to confirm their authenticity. The FBI, which has previously declined to comment due to pending litigation, did not immediately respond to questions from Fox News Digital.

Investigators have not officially determined a motive for the shooting, but they believe Hale, a former student, had targeted the school and its affiliated church. One of the child victims, Hallie Scruggs, was the daughter of the church's pastor.

The manifesto is expected to shed light on the killer's motive and rage, and critics have questioned the reasons behind the continued delays in its release. The National Police Association is also suing the city of Nashville for the same documents.

The tragic shooting unfolded as Hale burst into the school, fatally wounding Mike Hill in the process. According to city officials, Katherine Koonce heard the first shots while on a Zoom call, hung up, and confronted the attacker before being found dead in the hallway outside her office.

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